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The River: The Triquetra Chronicles, #2

The River: The Triquetra Chronicles, #2

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The River: The Triquetra Chronicles, #2

Lunghezza:
209 pagine
3 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 27, 2020
ISBN:
9781393886853
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

THE RIVER MUST FLOW…

At the Battle of Ardnamurchan, the Wiccan Council has been decimated, the Eye of the World slain.

 

Five members of the Seacht, the best and brightest practitioners of magic of their generation, have survived, headed by the courageous Nissa Grange. The true victor of the Triquetra Tournament, Nissa struggles to accept her new identity as the successor to the Eye, and the responsibilities that come with it…

 

Meanwhile, the League of Seth grow ever stronger, their determined leadership filling the void left by the Council of the World. Under the power of Kip Sorensen, the League offers Wiccans a stark choice; return to the true path of the Goddess or die.

 

With no other choice remaining, the Seacht decide the time has come to fight back…

THE RIVER is the second mystical instalment in the young adult fantasy series THE TRIQUETRA CHRONICLES.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 27, 2020
ISBN:
9781393886853
Formato:
Libro

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Anteprima del libro

The River - L B Crosher

COPYRIGHT

CHAPTER ONE

The knocking on the door was loud and desperate.

Nissa and the rest of the seven Wiccans known as the Seacht glanced at each other. They had not expected anyone to come to the cottage.

The knocking began again. ‘Nissa, are you in there?’ It was the voice of Elspeth, her grandmother. Nissa had only known her for a few months, but she had never heard her voice sound distressed before. Wrapped in her purple blanket, Nissa rose from where she had been sitting at the table and moved to the door. As she opened it, Elspeth pushed her way through and took a cursory look around at the others.

‘Good, you are all here. I take it you haven’t heard?’ she said, taking in the sight of the young warriors.

Nissa looked around the table at the people she had lived with for the last month. Although she had not known them for long, they had trusted her judgement when she had found out about a plot to overthrow the Council. They had fought beside her when The League of Seth had made their move in the final moments of the Triquetra tournament. That morning, they had been young competitors, each hoping to become a member of the Council of the Wiccan community, each hoping to make a difference to the world. Now they were warriors who had been blooded on the battlefield. They had seen friends slaughtered, and their enemies bound and led away. They would never again be the same people they had been only hours before.

They were dirty and ragged. They were exhausted. Ruby's face was spattered with mud and dried blood. Ailith looked no better. After the fighting, what remained of the Seacht had gathered at Eve's cottage. The cottage sat unchanged in its surroundings, nestled into the bottom of the hill, a tiny white cottage with a bright red door. For Nissa, although she was a newcomer to the world of magic and this remote corner of Scotland, it had become home, even though she had only lived there for a few short months.

Eve had been her mentor in this world of magic and ritual. Out of loyalty to Nissa’s late mother, Maya, Eve had persuaded Nissa to take part in the Triquetra tournament and become the Eye of the World, the leader of the Wiccan Council.

Nissa found it difficult to remember that, only a few short months ago, she had been a regular schoolgirl with no idea that the Wiccan community even existed. She would never understand why her father had kept it from her, and his death meant that she would never have the chance to ask him.

It was the death of her father that had spurred her on to train and compete in the tournament. He had been killed in an attack made to look like an accident. Another victim of the League.

Returning to the cottage after the fighting had seemed the right thing to do. Opening the front door and smelling the comforting scents of warmth and cleanliness had brought enormous comfort to Nissa, despite her still being caked in Eve's blood from where she had cradled her as she died, slaughtered by the League of Seth.

The remaining contestants for the role of The Eye of The World, Ailith, Ruby and Cameron, had congregated there with her. Ruby was a petite bundle of energy, cheerful and interested in everything. She and Ailith had been together for several years now. Ailith was more considered and analytical, and the best swordfighter in the tournament. Her Japanese mother had insisted she train in Japan. Nissa always felt that Ailith was measuring her every action. And then there was Cameron. He had become her most stalwart supporter. He had been at her side when she had needed him during the final moments of the tournament and during the battle. He had a warm and generous white smile in his beautiful brown face.

There should have been seven of them.

They were all that was left of the Seacht.

The word Seacht meant seven in Gaelic, but two of them had betrayed the Goddess in support of the League. The other, Isla, had fallen in the battle. They, too, were reeling from the events of the day.

‘People are looking for you, but I didn't tell them you might be here.’

Nissa stood alone and unsure in front of the grandmother she barely knew.

Elspeth looked at Nissa, taking in the grime and blood that was spattered across her face and clothes. ‘Come here, my darling girl.’

Nissa almost fell into Elspeth's arms.

‘Oh, my dear girl! My dear, dear girl. I'm so sorry for your loss,’ she said. She hugged Nissa tight.

‘I'm afraid I have more bad news for you, though.’ She let Nissa go and gestured for her to sit down. Elspeth was always pristine. She, too, had been fighting mere hours before but, somehow, she had found the time to get clean and change her clothes. Her appearance made the others aware of the grime they were sitting in as she surveyed the four of them.

‘I'm sorry to be the one to break this to you, but we have just heard that Kip Sorensen landed at Glasgow Airport two hours ago. He is on his way here, and his followers have already started to arrive. I thought you should know as soon as possible,’ said Elspeth.

‘Kip Sorensen? No way!’ said Ruby.

Ailith said nothing, instead just shaking her head.

‘It's not over, then,’ said Cam.

‘No. Not by a long way.’ Elspeth shook her head, her disbelief clear. ‘The Council Guard have allied themselves to the League. We don't know when, but it seems to have happened a while ago.’

‘But they detained Jax, Regan and his grandmother,’ said Nissa.

‘No, I'm afraid not. It may have looked that way, but, apparently, they escorted them to safety. Their next act was to arrest and detain the remaining members of the Council. They are currently being held in the Council Building, waiting for Sorensen.’

Nissa lifted her head. ‘Isn't Kip Sorensen the leader of the League of Seth?’

‘Yes, he is their public face. It seems that the gloves have finally come off,' said Elspeth.

‘But why is he coming here?’ asked Nissa.

‘We think that it was part of the plan. The battle has allowed them to stage a coup and argue that the Eye and the Council were corrupt, in the pay of huge multinational companies, and that their loyalty to the Goddess has been corrupted and diluted. The League are saying that they will return us to the true and ancient path of the Goddess.’

‘How nice of them,’ muttered Ruby under her breath.

The true and ancient path?’ said Ailith. ‘Whatever that is, it doesn't sound good.’

But we won,’ said Nissa uncomprehendingly. ‘We won the battle. The Guard led the members of the League away. The fighting had finished. We won.’

Elspeth took her hand. ‘I know it appeared that way, and that’s what most people thought, too. But it seems that this was about much more than the battle. The battle was simply a diversion. We were so focused on the competition that we didn't notice what else was going on. We can assume that this has been planned for a long time. Maybe even before the last competition, five years ago.’

‘But how? Everybody knows the League are evil. How can they have any support?’

‘A lot of people are unhappy with the way things are,’ Cameron said. ‘There are a lot of people who would relish the opportunity to take control from the non-magic world. They think the League will do a better job of looking after the planet. And what’s worse is that they are probably right.’

‘Cam!’ cried Ruby, looking shocked.

‘I didn't mean that they should. The planet doesn't belong to the League any more than it belongs to us. But I have heard more than one person say Wiccans could do a better job. Do you know what they plan to do?’ he asked, turning to Elspeth.

‘No, not yet.’ Elspeth shook her head. ‘But one thing is certain. It is not going to be pleasant for those who aren’t Wiccans or anyone who supports them.’

‘But why here? Why is Sorensen coming here?’ asked Nissa.

‘Ardnamurchan is one of the centres of power, of course. That is why it is home to the Eye and the Council. It is the spiritual focus of all the covens and the Wiccan communities across Europe.’

Nissa surveyed the faces around the table. They were all looking at her as though she were stupid.

‘One of the centres of power?’ she repeated.

‘Yes,’ said Ailith. ‘One of the six.’ She looked for a spark of understanding in Nissa's eyes. There wasn't one.

‘There are six places of power,’ she continued. ‘The great Pyramids of Giza. Macchu Picchu. Uluru. The Gangotri Glacier at the source of the Ganges, and Mount Fuji.’ She paused again, looking to see if Nissa understood. ‘If Sorensen takes Ardnamurchan, the power contained there is his.’

‘Sorry, can you go back for a moment? You are saying that Ardnamurchan is one of six global places of power?’

‘Yes.’ Elspeth and the others were stunned at her lack of knowledge.

‘Are you telling me that I have been competing to become a leader of a Council responsible for a sixth of the world?’

‘Sort of. It is, of course, much more complex than that,’ said Ailith, tucking her long, straight black hair behind her ear.

‘A sixth of the world,’ Nissa repeated. ‘You have to be insane. Nobody told me that. I thought it was just our coven here in Ardnamurchan.’

Now the others stared at her with blank looks on their faces.

‘You must have known,’ said Ailith, after a long silence.

‘Trust me, no one told me that,’ Nissa repeated. She held out her hands in protest. ‘There is no way on this Earth I would have competed if I had known that. No way.’ She shook her head.

‘But sweetie, you won. You are the Eye,’ said Ruby.

‘What? No. Jax killed the Eye. No one was declared the winner,’ said Nissa.

‘No,’ said Cam. ‘That's not how it works.’

‘What do you mean?’ she replied, glaring at the others.

He looked at the others for confirmation, and they nodded. ‘The Seacht decide the winner, no one else. They decide who the best leader is. We are all that is left of the Seven, and we have decided on you.’

The others nodded their agreement.

‘You showed excellent leadership throughout the day,’ he continued. ‘In reality, the whole thirty days is the contest. You pulled it out of the bag with the way you dealt with Jax's plot to betray us to the League. Today's final and the battle simply confirmed everything.’

‘I can't believe Eve didn't tell you this,’ said Ruby.

Elspeth smiled a wry smile. ‘I'd say it is precisely what Eve would have done. You said it yourself, Nissa — you wouldn't have competed if you had known.’

‘She knew,’ said Nissa. ‘She knew that you were going to choose me.’

‘Probably,’ said Ruby, patting Nissa's hand.

‘But now the Eye is dead. There is no Eye,’ said Nissa. ‘There is no Council.’

‘No.’ Ailith stopped her. ‘That's not true. There is always an Eye. When the presiding incumbent dies, their responsibilities revert to the previous Eye until a replacement is found through a tournament. That tournament has been held. You are the Eye because we say so.’

‘That piece of information is best left inside this room for the time being,’ cautioned Elspeth. ‘We don't yet know how this is going to play out.’

‘Yes,’ nodded Cam. ‘I agree. We have to tread with care. Don't forget, Jax knew that we had learned about his betrayal and our plan to expose him. I am guessing he will be golden boy to the League now.’ His warm brown eyes met Nissa's. They were captivating. She glanced away, embarrassed.

‘So, what should we do now?’ asked Ruby, looking around the table.

Ailith looked at Nissa. ‘You are the Eye, Nissa. What do you think?’ She raised her eyebrows, interested to see how Nissa would react.

‘First of all, don’t assume anything about me being the Eye. The idea is ridiculous. There isn't even a Council at the moment, never mind the Eye. Agreed?’ She glared at them.

Ruby looked at Cam and Ailith. They had known each other for so long that there were times they didn't need to use words. Now was one of those times.

‘Sweetie, we'll agree to leave it for the time being, but not forever,’ said Ruby.

‘The second thing,’ Nissa continued, ‘is that we need to go back to the Training Houses.’ She looked at Elspeth. ‘You said people were looking for us.’

‘Yes. Because things happened so fast, there was no official message released from the Council about the Eye or what had happened at the battle. When the news about Kip Sorensen’s impending arrival came through, people began looking for guidance.’

‘Who in particular?’ asked Nissa.

‘Some of the older families. The Stewarts and the Malcolms. Good people.’

Nissa thought for a moment, toying with the amber beads wrapped around her wrist. ‘We need some time to assess the lay of the land,’ she said. ‘We go back to the Training Houses either alone or in pairs. We shouldn’t appear to be too friendly for a little while. Maybe it will appear that we have fallen out over there being no clear result from the tournament. In public, we need to seem tense and unhappy with each other. Perhaps we'd be as well to pick some petty arguments, that kind of thing. It might help us to appear divided when Sorensen gets here.'

‘Cam and I could have a blazing row,’ Ruby piped up.

‘That won't be too difficult,’ grinned Cam.

‘Play your cards right and I'll slap you, too.’

‘You couldn't reach,’ said Cam.

‘If Ruby falls out with you, I will have to support her, of course,’ said Ailith, taking Ruby's small hand.

‘Okay, then: that is what we will do. We'll just have to see how this plays out. The problem is that no one knows what the League are prepared to do. We need time to gather our thoughts and come up with a plan.’

Elspeth nodded. ‘You're right. There are too many things we just don't know.’

‘We have a plan for the moment, at least. But we'll need time to regroup and judge the situation. We need to know how much support the League has before we can act.’

‘I agree,’ said Cameron. ‘We need the dust to settle. There is nothing we can do for the moment.’ He stood up, almost hitting his head on the beam above the table. ‘I'll go back to the Training Houses by myself, and you can follow on later.’

Nissa stood up to see him to the door. He put his hand on her arm and looked at her.

‘You are a worthy winner, Nissa. You're a natural leader.’ He reached towards her face, pushing a strand of hair from her eyes and tucking it behind her ear. ‘I'm so sorry about Eve.’

‘Thanks. I can't quite take it in. It doesn’t feel real yet.’

‘I'll see you back at the Training Houses.’ He waved at the others and left.

Elspeth stood up, too. ‘I'd better be going, too. Do you want a lift back?’

Nissa looked at Ruby and Ailith.

‘If we set off now and walk, it will look like we came from different places. You take Nissa,’ said Ruby.

She and Ailith stood up. Ailith groaned.

‘I'm stiff from all the fighting. It's been a long day.’

Ruby hugged her and said, ‘You and me both.

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